The kid ran like the wind, throwing his frail body to the rear of the vehicle. With one leap, he was able to get hold of the vehicle, pulled the dirty sheaf of airmail envelopes stuck in his frayed walking shorts. He started distributing the envelope to the people inside the crowded passenger jeepney (a common mode of transport in the Philippines). “Pangkain lang po (for food please),” he said.
I waived my hand, signalling I didn’t want the envelope. The boy moved to waiting near other passengers. He was unkempt, dirty and smelled like someone who haven’t taken a bath and been out in the sun the whole day. I offered him the change from the jeepney ride (PHP2 or less than US 10 cents). He did not say anything, took the money and started getting the other envelopes that the other passengers have discarded. Just as the jeep neared an intersection, the kid jumped. The last time I saw him, he was sitting in the nearest gutter when he alighted, counting the jiggling coins he has amassed from his pockets.
The jeep stopped in another intersection. Another kid, same tossled hair, same frayed shirt and the a vacant look on his face. He started doling out envelopes to those inside the jeepney. Again, I said no.
A part of me wanted to believe that not all parents living in poverty would subject their kids to the harm of running after various vehicles right in the middle of Manila’s unsafe roads. But with kids like these all over the area where I usually catch a ride, it’s disheartening to think that some parents were even allowed to breed. With the absence of a good planned parenthood program (the quickest way towards hell, says the Catholic bloc), it is not surprising that these kids will continue to run the streets, hoping for a quick buck.
Don’t get me wrong — a little bit of charity and goodwill is good for everyone. But how do you distinguish those who ask for spare change so that they could go to school, to those kids handled by syndicates or using their collected alms to buy solvent? At night, you would see them huddled in the dark corners of Guadalupe Bridge, sniffing glue out of little packets.
I don’t want to blame my government for failing me on that aspect, because I am sure they have pretty lot in their plate right now. Compared to previous governments I’ve seen in my lifetime, this current one seemed to be doing its job well. Still, it’s a basic government duty to take care of their people — yes, even if these “people” are little kids doing the fandango of death against Manila’s dangerous roads, begging…no, fighting to be alive.